Amazing Spider-Man #36
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man #36
The character's name, the Looter, comes from Steve Ditko's appreciation of the works of Ayn Rand ("Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter. - Francisco d'Anconia from Atlas Shrugged"). Norton G. Fester is only interested in scientific pursuit for fame and fortune...
...and is upset when people won't lend him money to investigate his meteor.
And when the meteor gives him super-powers, he decides to use those powers to make money.
Spidey stops him.
The politics, if you can call them that, aren't overt, and it doesn't keep Ditko from his usual dynamism in the super-fights.
A neat twist is that when the Looter is unmasked, Spidey of course has no idea who he is.
Meanwhile, Gwen Stacey continues to contemplate the riddle of Peter Parker.
By all reports Lee and Ditko weren't speaking to each other at all at this time and the stories were driven almost entirely by Ditko. That seems to be borne out by the Randian subtext here, something Stan Lee wouldn't have had much interest in. The story is decent enough, although the Looter won't exactly catch on like earlier Spidey villains did, and the stuff with Gwen (she witnesses Peter running from a scene with the Looter to change into Spidey and decides he's a coward) is a bit tired.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: According to the sequences in Marvels #3, this story takes place after the coming of Galactus.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Tales #175
if this is what Gwen Stacy's like, i'm not surprised the Green Goblin tossed her off the bridge.
Posted by: min | March 24, 2014 9:27 AM
It's interesting that Gwen's personality changed almost immediately after John Romita took over on art.
Posted by: Time Traveling Bunny | March 24, 2014 2:47 PM
I have kind of a soft-spot for the Looter. I liked his gimmick in the late-90s of using the gimmicks of other villains (Stilt Man's stilts, Shocker's wristbands, etc.).
Posted by: TCP | November 12, 2014 10:21 AM
"It's interesting that Gwen's personality changed almost immediately after John Romita took over on art."
Also interesting that Gwen started being really good-looking after Romita took over. Ditko is great for Doctor Strange backgrounds. For females, not so much.
Also, The Looter? That name with that costume? Officially scraping the bottom of the barrel. Just awful.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 12, 2015 7:40 PM
I think Ditko didn't really "get" Rand. Or maybe Rand's philosophy just doesn't hold together outside the spheres of economics and politics. From a Randian perspective, Fester, who only cares about money, should be the hero, and Parker, a foolish altruist, should be the villain.
Posted by: Andrew | February 3, 2015 7:44 PM
Not so, Andrew: im no Rand fan, but her philosophy insists that the way to earn money is through application of one's reeason. Rich guys who werent self-nade successes were villains in her world view.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | February 5, 2015 9:27 PM
Is the "unmasked but I don't know him" thing significant here? Ditko and Lee had previously done this bit in Electro's first appearance.
Posted by: Mortificator | July 26, 2015 10:08 PM
I've seen this issue cited a lot for the fact that the Looter is unmasked but that Spidey doesn't know him. You're right that the same exact thing happens with Electro much earlier. Maybe the fact that Electro is such a better known character is part of the reason why. I've removed the comment from the Historical Significance line, in any event.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 28, 2015 8:04 AM
From what I've heard, Ditko really wanted to focus on Peter's personal life, while Stan was insisting that each issue be slam-bang action-packed. The fight scenes in the later Ditko issues were him giving Stan what he asked for. They may have been great fight scenes on their own, but they did needlessly impact the story.
The Looter is only a Randian concept in that someone with no ability whatsoever happens to stumble upon a power source and immediately thinks that entitles him to fame and fortune. The Guy Named Joe actually got fame and fortune after exactly the same kind of accident.
I think Ditko wanted Betty to be Peter's true love, but he was too young to understand and she was too haunted by her past (and the ghost of Spider-Man) to make a move. Liz had changed her mind and started throwing herself at Petey, but after high school she got a job and behaved more responsibly, even though Flash was stalking her. Gwen was obviously set up in the same mold, and there was always the omnipresent threat of being introduced to Mary Jane, a fate worse than making a deal with the devil.
Posted by: ChrisW | August 10, 2015 10:03 PM
This is where the Spidey stories really do start to become ugly, Gwen as a cold hearted... you know what, was probably starting to sour Stan the man, who obviously was trying to set her up as Pete's next girl, but had to work around Steve's pencils to force the concept in. It made Gwen's inner thoughts of cute but absent, really clash with the ugly mug that Steve drew her with in almost every issue. When Stan and Steve parted ways and he was looking for the next artist he saw potential in Jazzy John's romantic hero he was turning Daredevil into and slowly eased him out of Hell's Kitchen and straight on into ESU, feeling that romanticism, with the studdly, looking men, and gorgeous curves on his women with the miost beautiful faces you ever saw, it was a no brainer for Stan to bring him in as Spider-Man's regular penciler. It was soon after that the book really took off and reached untold heights becoming the phenomenon he was.
Posted by: Darren | November 8, 2015 7:08 PM
ASM 36 was not the first appearance of Thwip. Actually, Thwip debuted in ASM 28, in his first fight with Molten Man.
Posted by: Darren | November 9, 2015 9:14 PM
Thanks, Darren. I've removed the link to CBR's When We First Met feature sayings that this issue was the first appearance of "Thwip!".
Posted by: fnord12 | November 10, 2015 7:34 AM
No problem, Fnord!
Posted by: Darren | November 11, 2015 12:16 AM
The Looter is kind of crap but he's entertaining and mildly thought-provoking crap. "Just because I flunked science in school doesn't mean I can't discover the secret of the universe! I've as much chance as anyone else!" There's something about this loser that gives him an odd sort of appeal. To paraphrase Jon Lovitz: "He just wants to accomplish something great, is that so wrong?"
Posted by: Robert | February 28, 2016 4:36 PM
Maybe Ditko, in this one story at least, really intended for Gwen to be presented as just another shallow little b. bad girl, to play against Betty Brant's good girl character, like Liz Allan had done in high school. Has Ditko ever written a blonde good girl? I can't think of any.
Stan had little choice but to write her that way, in this story at least, given that Steve was plotting and drawing the stories completely independently. They weren't even talking at this time.
Steve wants Betty to be the central romantic interest, but Stan has other ideas. Stan would love to have complete control of the highly successful Spider-Man, and is frustrated.
Is he using his narrative to publicly take pot-shots at Steve about how the story was plotted, or did Steve just take it that way? On page 4 panel 6, after about 3 pages on the origin of the Looter, we get "... And now, before some Brand Echh dropout suggests we change the name of this mag to The Amazing Fester-Man, we'll switch our scene to the campus of Empire State U..." Page 8 panel 4: "... And now that we've pretty well telegraphed what's going to happen next..." lol
"As recounted by Roy Thomas, Carl Hubbell redrew the Looter figure, changing him to Spider-Man (page 13, panel 5) at the request of Stan Lee." link Was this really necessary for the story? Or is this just Stan being frustrated that he can't control everything, the way John Romita will later allow him to do?
Posted by: James Holt | August 30, 2016 11:48 PM
As I understand it, Hubbell got very short notice to work on this issue, and due to Ditko's loose penciling, he made the character Spider-Man by mistake.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 31, 2016 10:40 AM
Kind of makes me think of Dikto not being happy about Green Goblin being someone Peter actually knew was a little overblown... I mean, Peter unmasked plenty of supervillains he didn't recognize, surely unmasking enough he'd be bound to recognize one sooner or later by law of averages. And honestly a lot of the worse stuff Green Goblin did to Spider-Man involved him being part of his personal life, so its not like his archenemy JUST SO HAPPENED to be someone he knew by sheer coincidence... If anything, it was the other way around.
Posted by: Max_Spider | August 31, 2016 11:39 AM
Yeah, there are a lot of instances in which the unmasked villain is just "some guy" (Electro, Looter, and probably most notably the Crime-Master, in which the villain is not the twist of Foswell but some gangster we've never met). The one big "twist" that I can think of is the Big Man, although even then that's a rub--it's not the super twist of Jameson but a guy we've just met that issue. The fact that the Goblin's identity had been concealed for so long suggests the Goblin is something more than that.
Posted by: Michael Cheyne | August 31, 2016 1:18 PM
Mark Drummond is correct: "the silhouette (in layouts) of the villainous Looter looked virtually identical to Spidey's, since both wore form-fitting costumes. Accordingly, when Stan scripted the final panel on pg. 13, he had to decide: did Steve mean that to be Spidey on the ledge, hunting for the fled Looter - or was it the Looter himself, hiding thereon? With no clarifying note from Steve, Stan wrote the figure as Spider-Man, and Artie Simek lettered it. When the story came back, however, Steve had inked the figure as the Looter - apparently the character he'd intended it to be. At this point, of course, either the balloons or the figure had to be totally changed. Thus, Roy recalls lingering at the Marvel offices well after 5:00 pm, one nigh-Christmas day in 1965 and chatting about Charlie Biro with veteran artist Carl Hubbell (then inking Rawhide Kid) while the latter painstakingly transformed Looter into Wall-Crawler in that panel."
Info comes from this link, which also has various other fixes done by Hubbell: https://nick-caputo.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/the-unknown-art-of-carl-hubbell.html
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | August 31, 2016 1:31 PM
Ditko is great for Doctor Strange backgrounds. For females, not so much.
I've always felt that Ditko *is* great at drawing women of a certain type, namely femme fatales, temptresses, ice queens and rhymes-with-witches. His females who were evil had this allure of dangerous sexuality. However, when Ditko drew "ordinary" women they more often than not would end up looking quite bland.
I wonder what was going on in Ditko's mind that females with the more negative personalities came out looking more erotic. Or perhaps some of that was also due to Eric Stanton doing some uncredited assists on certain of these issues?
Posted by: Ben Herman | September 1, 2016 4:11 PM
I guess I'm going way off the beaten track here, but to me Ditko's Gwen Stacy seems MUCH more alluring than Romita's. Maybe I just like bad girls better? Going by my faulty memory alone, Romita's vast portfolio of good-looking women all seem to be cast from a very stereotypical good-girl mold, and they all look very similar to me, with little to set them apart from each other.
Regarding the Carl Hubbell alterations, thanks very much for the link to Nick Caputo's article. According to Caputo's explanation, it wasn't a case of Hubbell misinterpreting Ditko's pencils, but rather, it was Lee who misinterpreted the penciled figure as Spider-Man, and wrote 27 words of dialog for the panel accordingly. Then when Ditko got the pages back for inking, he inked the Looter figure without reading the dialog. It was a simple easy-to-make mistake for both men, both under deadline pressure, and clearly an alteration was needed before it went to press.
I don't know who it was who decided it was better to re-draw the Looter figure as Spider-Man than to re-write 27 words of dialog, but I'd guess it was Lee since he was the editor. Maybe there were other factors which made it difficult for the dialog to be re-written, but I don't know of any, and it would seem simpler and easier to just rewrite the dialog, rather than drag in poor Hubbell after 5PM, and right before Christmas too! Christmas is ruined! :(
Posted by: James Holt | September 1, 2016 5:58 PM
Gwen Stacy drawn by Steve Ditko and Gwen Stacy drawn by John Romita are almost different characters.
When I first got into comic books in the late 1980s, I actually thought that Gwen had been designed by Romita. All the depictions of Gwen that ever showed up in flashbacks or that I saw in reprints were of Romita's sexy but sweet Gwen. Finally I had a chance to see reprints of the later Ditko issues of ASM, and I was genuinely surprised to discover that Ditko had created Gwen. And she certainly looked quite different than the Gwen I was used to!
James Holt, I have to say that I rather agree with you in preferring Ditko's Gwen. When Ditko was on ASM, Gwen was feisty & intelligent. She didn't take crap from anyone. I think that Stan Lee was scripting Gwen to match Ditko's hard-edged visuals. Once Romita began to soften Gwen's features, Lee likewise scripted her as warmer & friendlier, but also as weaker. As a result, Gwen eventually become much more like Lee's typical flighty, overly-worried female characters who constantly fretted about their men, such as the Invisible Girl and the Wasp and Sharon Carter.
Posted by: Ben Herman | September 2, 2016 8:54 AM
At least Romita got Gwen's Ditko-era hairstyle right. Some retro-artists do not. I like Romita a lot and he was IMO one of the most outstanding inkers for that time period. That might sound like damnation by faint praise but even by the best modern standards I still think his work is excellent, pencils as well as inks. He knew how to lay on the black to create depth while other Marvel inkers were basically making outlines suitable for coloring books. At the age of 10 however I was terribly disappointed to see anyone replace Ditko on Spider-Man. All the characters seemed excessively warm, cuddly, and "generic" when Romita drew them, and less "edgy," although I believe him when he says he did his best to follow Ditko's style. Like Ditko, he has his own signature style; who could expect him to compromise that? Few artists can successfully duplicate Ditko's Art with a capital A. Few would even try. Some can't even see it.
Going over these issues nowadays, I cringe just a little whenever I read some of/most of Lee's "female" dialog for women characters, and even more at reading how their male contemporaries interact with them. Times have changed a lot since 1966 but Lee could have done better. Bet he didn't treat his own wife like that. Maybe he was like all those 60s stand-up comics telling wife jokes. I would hope.
Posted by: James Holt | September 2, 2016 4:32 PM
Romita may have gotten the hang of "Ditko-Gwen" but she eventually becomes "blonde Mary Jane with a hairband" regardless. And with so many Gwen Staceys out there now (including all the stuff like Spider-Gwen and Gwenpool as well as animated and movie versions), I wonder if anyone will ever really give her a real version similar to this. Closest I can think of is, strangely, the way the 1990s animated series did Felicia Hardy in the first season or two before she became the Black Cat...
Posted by: Ataru320 | September 2, 2016 7:44 PM
I think Ditko's Gwen Stacey looks very good. The only problem (if you want to call it that) is that we really only see her in a handful of situations; snubbing Peter, trying to be nice to Peter, trying to tempt Peter, wondering if/why she's attracted to Peter. Was she even a damsel-in-distress during Ditko's run? Romita's experience with romance comics alone would guarantee a better-looking Gwen (if you want to call it that) and he put Gwen in a far wider variety of situations than Ditko did, if nothing else because he spent a lot more time with the character.
I don't think Ditko was wrong in showing her as he did. If nothing else, Peter and Gwen still barely knew each other by the time Ditko left the series, and she had almost nothing to do with Spider-Man at any time. It's Spidey's book, so he's the one who gets the attention and she's just supporting cast. Betty and Liz certainly got attention and nuance (and looked great.) Aunt May didn't, but kids rarely think so deeply about the people who raised them, and again, it's Spidey's book. I think Ditko intended Peter and Betty to be the main romance, and would be very interested to know what he had planned for Gwen.
Posted by: ChrisW | September 3, 2016 1:29 AM
Personally, I've always thought Rand was a kook. As far as Ditko drawing ugly females, I disagree but there is no doubt that Romita was better in that regard. Gwen Stacy has always been my favorite female in Spider-Man. Recently I saw a pole on facebook asking which fictional character's death affected you most. Gwen Stacy was my response. I've always like Crystal the best for Johnny Storm but of course that ship has looong since sailed. I feel the same way about Karen Page for DD and do not like what was done with her either.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | November 7, 2016 9:40 PM
Looter is a creative villain in the fact that he gets his power from a meteor. Not shipping parker/stacy yet. Really hate her to be honest. Looking forward to romita because what people have written here
Posted by: Roy Mattson | July 4, 2017 5:32 PM
The Looter's costume was cool but he never really had a gimmick to make him memorable. Just muscles. Not surprising he never caught on. And spidey defeats him by outpunching him, just like he did with Kraven earlier. The time was ripe for a change.
Did this Sally appear in earlier issues? She seems familiar.
Posted by: kveto | May 24, 2018 12:54 PM
I never noticed it before, but this Sally does kind of look like the Sally who declined Peter's date invitation in Amazing Fantasy #15, saying something like, "not with dreamboats like Flash Thompson around!" That Sally had a similar hairstyle, but it was blue/black hair instead of brown/black-- which could be easily explained as just a coloring error.
Posted by: Holt | May 24, 2018 1:48 PM
I think that's where I was thinking of. Must be the same Sally. Particularly since Pete initially reacted positively to her. People can dye their hair.
Posted by: kveto | May 24, 2018 3:47 PM
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